After White House meeting, President Obama praises mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson's 'outstanding work' in Baltimore

President Barack Obama speaks to the media at a meeting with civil rights leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. From left are the president Rep, John Lewis, D-Ga., Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Al Sharpton, Founder and President of the National Action Network, Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and in the blue vest is Deray McKesson, Co-Founder of We the Protestors and Campaign Zero.

It's not every day a Baltimore mayoral candidate gets a sit-down meeting with the president of the United States. 

DeRay Mckesson, the prominent activist and last-minute entrant into Baltimore's mayoral race, met Thursday with President Barack Obama and different generations of civil rights leaders at the White House for a Black History Month event.  

Mckesson, who is among 13 Democrats running for mayor, said the president engaged in a wide-ranging conversation with the activists. 

"We had a really strong conversation," Mckesson said. "We covered so many topics from policing contracts to use-of-force policies to Flint and the school-to-prison pipeline to the upcoming Supreme Court nomination." 

The Black Lives Matter activist who grew up in West Baltimore said he also discussed the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who attended the meeting. 

"It was important to connect with the president," Mckesson said. "I asked about why federal use-of-force policies don't include policies about preserving life and clear guidelines around de-escalation. The president said he'd look into it." 
Mckesson, a former school administrator who co-founded We the Protestors and Campaign Zero, attended the meeting along with Al Sharpton, Cornell Brooks, president of the NAACP, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. 
After the meeting, Obama praised Mckesson, saying he'd done "outstanding work mobilizing in Baltimore around these issues." 
"They are much better organizers than I was at their age," Obama said of the young activists at the meeting. "I am confident they are going to take America to new heights." 

A White House official described the meeting as a first-of-its-kind gathering of leaders who represent different generations of the civil rights movement, and said the president called for the meeting to focus on criminal justice reform and building trust between police and neighborhoods.

Mckesson, who lives in North Baltimore, gained widespread attention during protests after the police-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. He unexpectedly jumped into the race for Baltimore's mayor earlier this month.